BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
If anyone that rose from the Seattle band boom of the 1980’s/90’s deserves an anthology of their solo work it is Mark Lanegan. Sure, Kurt Cobain is more famous and didn’t record much alone, Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley is more a tragic figure and Chris Cornell may be more of a recognizable name but, Jesus Christ, have you heard Cornell’s solo work? He is living proof that a great guitarist (Kim Thayil/ Tom Morello) can save a sinking ship.
Lanegan doesn’t need someone to make him great, he does fine by himself and it shows with the anthology of his solo work Has God Seen My Shadow?- An Anthology 1989-2011 (Light in the Attic). Whether it was standing tall with his blasting baritone in the seminal band Screaming Trees, guesting with Queens of The Stone Age, rockin’ with Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli as The Gutter Twins or crafting beautiful duets with Belle and Sebastian’s Isobel Campbell or solo, Lanegan always steals the show.
Since 1990’s The Winding Sheet (featuring the haunting “Museum”), Lanegan has produced constantly beautiful, frayed, dark and genius music as he hid in the shadows. Shadow is superb in content as well as presentation; the two cd set (3 LP and book of lyrics for the vinyl junkies out there like myself) is a testament to a man that, through his music and distinctive voice, has left his mark on the world.
Shadow is not without its holes however. Built entirely from music recorded under his given name, it leaves out the countless great songs recorded during his many guest appearances that have helped bring him back into the public eye after the official disbanding of Trees in 2000. Shadow is a decidedly low key event, nothing from 2012’s stellar Blues Funeral, no “Methamphetamine Blues,” not his cover of Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me,” a song that fits Lanegan and his life like a tailor made Italian suit. We can’t have it all, can we?
Shadow confirms that Lanegan, the redheaded stepchild of, forgive me for saying this, the grunge movement, is undoubtedly one its best songsmiths. He has always had a knack for bringing the regret, loss and lament that has shaped his life into the world on a wave of melody; his popcorn and razor blade voice is that of a man who has lived life, which has seen it all and managed to write it all down.
Lanegan has influenced countless musicians, most notably Matt Berninger of The National. Songs like “Kimiko’s Dream House” (written with Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the influential band The Gun Club), “Sunrise,” “Creeping Coastline of Lights,” “One Hundred Days,” and “Dream Lullabye” show the level of songwriter Lanegan is; he is not just a junkie curiosity, a dope casualty or a washed out singer that barely avoided the fate of his brethren. Lanegan survived and thrives, a voice from the fringe, one that should be heard and will be heard for years to come.
If you are out there and your frame of musical interest does not go much past club music and Electronic music, if you dwell in the world of downloads and sound bites, do yourself a favor: put down the smartphone, stop texting for a few minutes and check out Has God Seen My Shadow? Shut off the noise of the world, sit back and truly listen.
You will be glad you did.
DOWNLOAD: “One Hundred Days” “Last One in the World” “Wild Flowers”